School district looks to the future | July 10, 2009 | Danville Express | |

Danville Express

Newsfront - July 10, 2009

School district looks to the future

Tech update shows high cost of upgrades

by Geoff Gillette

The future is coming- and it's got a hefty price tag.

Technology Director Bruce Chmielesky recently gave an update to the San Ramon Valley Unified School District board, reporting that while the innovations heading toward students are amazing, there is still a question of finding the dollars to get to that future.

"We have a lot of challenges facing us," Chmielesky explained. "We will need to make some changes to our infrastructure in order to be able to move ahead."

Challenges include bandwidth, connectivity, communications, security and obsolescence. Much of the equipment in the district, servers, switches and other gear, will need to be replaced at some point due to age and the slow erosion of their ability to service the higher end computers that continue to emerge.

Chmielesky broke the technology replacement plan down into five tiers:

* 1. Critical network infrastructure, instructional labs, libraries

* 2. Teacher laptop/desktop and printer

* 3. Elementary school labs, special interventions/initiatives

* 4. School clusters and single computers

* 5. District level administrative and support computers

Currently, the estimated cost of replacing tiers 1-3 is around $1.6 million per year over five years. Chmielesky said that if a bond measure were used to cover the expense it would need to be around $14 million. At this time, no such bond measure is being considered.

District Superintendent Steve Enoch, a strong proponent of 21st Century learning and the need for a higher level of technology in the classroom, said he wanted the school board to get Chmielesky's report because even in a time of fiscal uncertainty it is necessary to keep looking at that next step.

"I'm worried that in the sweeping avalanche of the budget that we've lost site of the technology. Even so, we've tried to stay the course," Enoch stated. "We need a vision, even though we don't know where the dollars are."

Chmielesky said the changes they are seeing mean that classrooms are headed in a direction different from what has been seen before.

"Netgen students don't read newspapers, but like magazines. They will never own a land line," he said.

He added that these next generation students will place a high priority on communication and expect that everything will eventually move to mobile communications.

"We need to talk to our customers," he explained.

He said that a survey of 280,000 students showed that they want an experience very different from what has been available in the past. Some of the things they are looking for are digital textbooks, earning college credit for classes, and being able to take classes that are not offered locally.

As part of the technology upgrade, the district is continuing to look at evolving the classroom to reflect these changes in technology and the way in which the approach to teaching will need to adapt.

"Schools haven't changed, the world has," said Chmielesky.